There are certain fields and situations in which being perfect is probably a really good idea.
For example, if I were to undergo brain surgery, I would want the most anal retentive, perfectionist surgeon, preferably with a God complex and an ego as wide as Oklahoma.
In that situation, being perfect would probably be very helpful. The results for me would be much better than being the patient of a doctor who thought that good enough is good enough.
In other areas, trying to be perfect is, believe it or not in my professional opinion, actually a very bad idea.
For example, in the area of eating.
I have studied nutrition from virtually every possible angle you can think of. Metabolic typing. Body type dieting. Calorie counting. Portion Control. Food sensitivities and food allergies. Gut healing. Damaged metabolism. Schwarzbein programs. Raw food (and the raw food people are totally nuts, and you have my permission to quote me on that). Lab tests to identify metabolic errors. Weston A. Price Foundation. Organic food. Detoxification. I could go on, but why bother.
At the end of the day, it’s just about learning how to eat what is right for your body, how to stop eating when you are full and how to be grateful for actually being fed.
At the end of the day, trying to be perfect in the area of eating can make us lose sight of a few important truths.
Like the fact that according to U.S. government statistics, about 23 percent of children under the age of 17 in our fine, highly developed Western country live in families classified as “food insecure,” meaning “ difficulty in obtaining enough food, reduced food intake, reduced diet quality, and anxiety about an adequate food supply.” And that was as of 2009.
The mere act of trying to be perfect can be a tremendous emotional drain.
Recently, I had a client in my office and I complimented her on how well she looked that day.
“I look terrible!” she shot back at me. “You have no idea how good I used to look back in the days when I was training.”
Needless to say, this individual is suffering from severe adrenal burnout. She does not understand why she has not been able to make much headway in getting her energy back.
Perfectionism leads to black-white thinking with no middle ground for ambiguity or tolerance for ourselves or others. It doesn’t allow us to age, have a wrinkle, get injured, win fourth place or have an off day, being as we humans are not usually always 100 percent. And if we ourselves can’t age, have a wrinkle, get injured, win fourth place or have an off day, then other people aren’t allowed to either. The criticism we direct inwardly gets spewed out onto those other lesser, flawed humans who surround us.
In the area of eating, there is even an actual eating disorder that describes this – and perfectly, I may add! Orthoexia nervosa.
This is a non medical term for people who avoid foods they perceive as being unhealthy.
Most of us fall into the category of in the room for improvement, which, as one of my clients once famously said, is “the largest room in the world.” That means that most of us who are actually doing C grade eating or C grade exercise would do well to take our efforts up a notch and ask ourselves what we might could do in order to be more like B students.
But the ones who try to be perfect are simply driving themselves crazy. It can be rewarding to perform at a high level, to look great, to get those ripped abs, to have our friends tell us we look great.
But what about our relationships?
I remember having a couple of meals with a gentleman who had orthoexia.
He insisted on dragging an entire group of people to this one specific restaurant – the only restaurant in the entire area where he felt he could get food up to his standards. Then, when we all got there and sat down, he scrutinized the menu and decided nothing was good enough for him. He pulled out a protein bar that he had in his pocket and sat there eating his bar while the rest of us enjoyed our meal.
Another time we drove 30 minutes out of our way to go to another very specific restaurant and he refused to eat at all. By that time, we were all very hungry and sat there eating in front of him.
After that incident, I swore I would not eat another meal with him again.
And what does all this striving for perfection do to us?
We only have a certain amount of energy and attention. When we become overly focused on eating the exact right thing or looking like we just got photoshopped, we can lose sight of what really matters.
Personally, I feel that the most important emotion any human can have about food is gratitude. Not being nervous the food is the perfect, kosher, blessed, organic, low-carb, low-fat, Paleo, unprocessed, gluten-free, metabolically correct thing. Just glad we’re eating.
That is why I feel that blessing my food is so important.
“Thank you God for the food which we are about to eat. Please bless this food to my use and me to they service. Amen.”
That’s a prayer I grew up saying and it still feels valid to me.
Blessing our food literally changes the vibration in our food, plus it can go a long way to improving our attitude and realizing how lucky we are on this big planet of ours.